Apartment Life Blog

The truth about ‘warming up’ your car

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20121-12-03 green living tips photo - warming carThree little words for anyone in the habit of “warming up” the car for a few minutes, especially on cold mornings:

Cease and desist.

Yes, we know. The men in your family always idled for at least three minutes, mumbling something vague about the salutatory effects of getting the oil circulating in the engine. But thanks to modern fuel injection, that advice no longer holds true.

The problem is pollution. Car idling has been called the “second-hand smoking of the outdoors” because it releases so much unhealthy exhaust.

And mechanics say it doesn’t improve your engine’s efficiency. Below, eight tips and myths about the practice by Jim Motavalli at thedailygreen at http://www.goodhousekeeping.com. [link]

1. Driving warms the car faster than idling.
If your concern is not the health of the car, but simply your own comfort, Bob Aldrich of the California Energy Commission points out that “idling is not actually an effective way to warm up a car — it warms up faster if you just drive it.”

2. Idle no longer than ten seconds.
The Environmental Defense Fund, which produced the Idling Gets You Nowhere campaign, advises motorists to turn off their ignition if they’re sitting stopped for more than 10 seconds. “After about ten seconds, you waste more money running the engine than restarting it,” said Andy Darrell, deputy director of the EDF Energy Program. “Switch the car off at the curb and you’ll be leaving money in your wallet and protecting the air in your community.”

3. Idling hurts the car.
According to the Hinkle Charitable Foundation’s Anti-Idling Primer, idling forces an engine “to operate in a very inefficient and gasoline-rich mode that, over time, can degrade the engine’s performance and reduce mileage.”

4. Idling costs money.
Over a year of five minutes of daily idling (which causes incomplete combustion of fuel), the “Anti-Idling Primer” estimates that the operator of a V-8-engined car will waste 20 gallons of gasoline, which not only produces 440 pounds of carbon dioxide but also costs at least $60.

5. Idling in the garage can kill you.
Idling a car in a garage, even with the door open, is dangerous and exposes the driver to carbon monoxide and other noxious gases. If the garage is attached, those fumes can also enter the house.

6. Block heaters beat remote starters.
Lori Strothard of the Waterloo Citizens Vehicle Idling Reduction Task Force in Canada says, “Remote starters can too easily cause people to warm up their cars for five to 15 minutes, which is generally unnecessary. A block heater, which is designed to heat the engine and can cost under $30, on a timer set to start one to two hours before driving does the trick in very cold climates.

7. Quick errands aren’t quick enough.
Natural Resources Canada points out that “quick errand” idling is another way to waste gas and pollute both your town and the planet. “Leaving your engine running is hard on your pocketbook, produces greenhouse gas emissions and is an invitation to car thieves,” the agency says.

8. Idling is bad for everyone’s health.
According to Minneapolis’ anti-idling ordinance, “Exhaust is hazardous to human health, especially children’s; studies have linked air pollution to increased rates of cancer, heart and lung disease, asthma and allergies.” Studies show that children’s IQ levels are lower when they live near major roads with lots of traffic.”

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